Ginger

Ginger

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Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

A bold perennial, with the most heavenly scented flower. The ‘root’, which is known as the ‘hand’ (it looks rather like a hand with plump, deformed fingers) is the edible part of the plant. Whole, fresh ginger should be smooth-skinned and kept dry or it will sprout and lose its flavour. It has been used in Asia, from India to China, since long ago, and dried ginger was one of the first spices to reach Europe from Asia.

Fresh ginger: It can be peeled and grated or ground to a pulp and used in many types of curries (see Prawn Curry and Lamb with Cashew Nut Curry). In Chinese dishes, a slice of fresh ginger is added to oil and sautéed for a minute to give its distinctive but delicate flavour to the oil. Peeled and cut into fine strips, it is often used in Chinese and Japanese dishes (see Coriander Chicken and Steamed Fish Coriander). Peeled and sliced, it can be rubbed over chicken, fish or duck, as you would garlic. It may also be added to marinades, soups or stews. Dried ginger: The root is often dried. To use, cut into pieces and soak in cold water for several hours. Dried ginger is also ground to a powder, and it is a popular spice for flavouring cakes, biscuits and puddings.

Preserved ginger: The peeled ginger root is often preserved in syrup and eaten as a sweetmeat. Preserved ginger is used in fruit and cream desserts and steamed puddings. The syrup may be poured over ice cream, fruit salad, etc.

Red pickled ginger and brined ginger: Called gari or sushoga in Japanese, finely sliced red pickled ginger is a traditional accompaniment to sushi and sashimi. Although its pretty pink colour can be natural if young ginger is used and enough time is allowed, it is often dyed using natural foods, such as beetroot (beets). Sugar, salt and vinegar are used to preserve the thinly sliced ginger.

Ginger preserved in brine is used in stir-fry dishes; it is available sliced, diced, in julienne (matchstick) strips and used as a substitute for fresh ginger.

Candied ginger: This is another popular treatment; chopped or sliced it is used in baking or as a sweetmeat.

Finally, ginger is widely used for flavouring the popular beverages ginger ale and ginger beer.

To keep fresh ginger: Juicy young roots that have not become too fibrous may be peeled and cut into small knobs. Place in a clean glass jar and cover with dry sherry. Keep, covered, in refrigerator and use as for fresh ginger.

Gingered Honeydew Melon: Peel and slice a ripe chilled honeydew melon. Discard seeds and arrange slices in an overlapping design on a chilled platter. Sprinkle them with a mixture of 1 tablespoon icing (confectioners') sugar, sifted, and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Serve as a first course, or dessert with ice cream.

Ginger Ice Cream: Take 500 ml vanilla ice cream from freezer and allow to soften slightly. Swirl in 2 tablespoons finely chopped, preserved ginger and return to freezer. Serve with a crisp sweet biscuit. Good with poached pears, peaches or sliced fresh melon.

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